Which North Carolina city has done the most to advance inclusive laws and policies for the LGBTQ+ community?
According to recent rankings by the Human Rights Campaign, it’s Greensboro. The city has a vast, economically and socially significant LGBTQ+ population, and the city has worked hard to better support these individuals over the years.
In order to preserve the history of this community, UNC Greensboro launched the first-ever large-scale initiative to document the LGBTQ+ history of the Triad region.
The project began in 2018, following a Common Heritage grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). “PRIDE! of the Community: Documenting LGBTQ+ History in the Triad” involves digitizing a variety of materials and records pertaining to the LGBTQ+ community.
“We recognized that this is a history that needed to be preserved and an important community that needed their voices heard,” said Stacey Krim, assistant professor and curator of manuscripts for University Libraries. Krim helps lead the project alongside colleague David Gwynn, associate professor and digitization coordinator for University Libraries.
To collect most of the materials, community scanning days are hosted in partnership with Guilford Green Foundation to digitize any unique artifact that documents LGBTQ+ history in the Triad. Examples of artifacts include photographs, T-shirts, organizational newsletters and records, flyers, protest signs, letters, postcards, and other items.
Most recently, the team has expanded the project’s collection to include oral history interviews with community members sharing their experiences with LGBTQ+ life, culture, and politics.
One notable oral history in the collection is that of Dr. Thomas K. Fitzgerald, the first openly gay professor at UNCG. Fitzgerald made history in the mid-1970s by introducing the first approved college course focused on homosexuality in North Carolina. Scholars interested in this topic traveled from all over the state to take the course at UNCG. Listen to his story: uncg.edu/fitzgerald.
“The inclusivity we enjoy in the Triad presently is the result of the labors of individuals and organizations who have been advocating for local LGBTQ+ recognition and civil rights for decades,” says Krim. “This project honors their work, reminds us all not to take our current environment for granted, and reminds us that history is continually in the making.”
The digital collection allows the collected stories and artifacts to be shareable and easily accessible to all. To see the collection, visit pride.triadhistory.org.
Do you have artifacts to add to the collection? Want to share your story? Contact Gwynn at firstname.lastname@example.org or Krim at email@example.com.
Story by Alexandra McQueen, University Communications
Images courtesy of University Libraries